ClickCease What Makes a Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?
04/30/24   |   By

What Makes a Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?

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When you or a loved one face a personal injury claim, you will have many questions, including, “What makes most personal injury cases go to trial?” In most cases, your claim will go to trial if you cannot reach a fair settlement with the at-fault party and their insurance company. An experienced personal injury attorney from Regan Zambri Long will walk you through every step of your case, from initial filing to settlement negotiations to a trial, if necessary. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 202-960-4596.

What Is a Personal Injury Case?

What Makes a Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?

A personal injury occurs when one person’s negligence causes another person injury. Some of the most common personal injury cases include medical malpractice, car accidents, premises liability, and product liability. The negligent party is legally responsible for paying financial compensation for the damages and injuries their negligence causes.

When the victim, also called the plaintiff, begins legal proceedings, the case follows a general outline. The plaintiff’s attorney will investigate the accident, gather evidence to prove negligence, and value your losses.

Next, the lawyer will likely demand a settlement from the defendant’s insurance company or attorneys. The settlement phase can involve several offers and counteroffers until an agreement is reached. Most personal injury cases settle, with only 4-5 percent going to trial.

When Do Personal Injury Cases Go to Trial?

If the responsible party does not offer a fair settlement, your lawyer will file a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit begins the trial process, but you can still resolve the dispute out of court. The prospect of the trial process and mounting costs can sometimes spur the defendant’s insurance company to offer full and fair compensation.

What is the process of a personal injury trial?

Personal injury trials allow a judge and jury to review both parties’ evidence and formally award damages. The attorneys present their clients’ evidence, including witness testimony, medical records, police reports, and other evidence proving fault. After hearing the arguments, the jury deliberates and renders its verdict.

The legal process of a trial generally lengthens a personal injury case, especially in complex cases. Because of this, the court often factors costs and legal fees into the awarded damages.

Pre-Trial Processes

Your personal injury attorney will file the proper paperwork to alert the court and the defendant that you are taking legal action. The clerk’s office will issue a summons for the defendant, letting them know what steps they should take.

If your personal injury case requires you to file a lawsuit and get the court further involved, the first step is gathering evidence to prove your claim. Your experienced personal injury lawyer will lead and direct you in your role.

Providing Documentation

Personal injury law requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was negligent. If you cannot prove negligence, the defendant will win the case.

Quality evidence is key to your personal injury claim. Medical records, police reports, witness testimony, expert witnesses, and camera footage will help build your lawsuit. Copies of your medical bills lost wages, and other expenses directly related to the accident will help validate the value of your claim.

Giving a Deposition

The deposition process is a pre-trial phase where attorneys collect testimony from the opposing witnesses. Depositions allow both sides to build a targeted case and assess the strengths and weaknesses.

As the injured victim, you will likely have to give a deposition to the defendant’s attorney. It is important to be truthful and factual during this process, but do not volunteer extra information or try to explain your answers. Saying you don’t know or don’t remember is a valid answer to a question, provided it is the truth.

Independent Medical Exam

In certain circumstances, you may need to undergo an independent medical examination. A doctor who is not treating you will evaluate your injuries and recovery. Independent exams are used frequently in workers’ compensation cases where the employer has questions about the report provided by your treating doctor.

Because the doctor providing the exam has no vested interest in your situation, you should be wary during the process. Answer questions truthfully and factually without downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms, conditions, or pain.

Your attorney can challenge the report if you disagree with the findings.

What is discovery in a personal injury case?

The discovery process of a trial is a formal exchange of evidence. While it can seem counter-intuitive to provide your legal opponent with all the facts of your case, you often gain more than you lose in discovery. The process lets your lawyer build a detailed case targeting the defendant’s defense.

Attempting to Settle Before Trial

Your lawyer will almost always attempt to settle before your case goes to trial. Settling involves negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company and legal representation to reach a fair value for your injuries.

Settling is usually faster than a trial, minimizes costs, and is usually less risky for both parties. When a case goes to trial, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant controls the damages the jury awards.

How Settlement Negotiations Work

When your lawyer attempts to settle your personal injury case, they will work closely with the defendant’s attorney to reach a mutual agreement. In some states, including Maryland, mediation is a requirement for negotiations. In others, including Virginia and Washington, DC, mediation is optional. However, involving a neutral third party in negotiations can help settle the legal issue outside of court.

Your personal injury lawyer will initially demand compensation based on sustained damages and injuries. The defendant’s attorneys will make a counteroffer. The lawyers will exchange offers until they reach an agreeable settlement or agree that negotiations have failed.

Decision Points: Settlement vs. Trial

Reasons Cases Settle

Most cases settle because avoiding court is convenient for all parties involved. All parties get hands-on in reaching an agreement and have more control over the final settlement amount.

Settling resolves a personal injury case faster than going to trial and is cheaper regarding legal fees, court costs, and other expenses. The trial process can take months or years to resolve satisfactorily, which is not ideal for either party.

The Advantages of Settling

Injured victims who settle outside of court can expect to start receiving compensation sooner than those who go to trial. Timeliness can be important if the injured person has mounting medical expenses or other bills. Settling also decreases the risk of a jury awarding lesser damages or denying the defendant’s liability.

For the defendant, settling is often more cost-effective. The legal fees and court costs of a trial are generally added to the damages awarded to the injured person. In addition, going to trial places the amount of compensation in the jury’s hands, which could result in paying more than the plaintiff requested during negotiations.

Making the Decision

Your personal injury attorney is your best source of wisdom and guidance on choosing between settling and a trial. Your attorney will help you evaluate the strength of your case, whether you are likely to receive more compensation from a jury verdict, and whether it is worth the time and expense of a legal battle.

A trial is often necessary when the liable party is unwilling to negotiate for fair compensation. In many situations, however, negotiations are successful, and cases are settled quickly.

What Happens at a Personal Injury Trial?

Both attorneys will participate in the jury selection process to ensure that it comprises unbiased peers.

The trial begins with opening statements, during which each attorney provides an overview of their case and briefly explains how they will prove their client’s claim. The plaintiff goes first because they bear the burden of proof.

After opening statements, the plaintiff’s attorney will present their case through witnesses and evidence. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was negligent in the trial. After the plaintiff’s case is finished, the defense presents testimony to support an affirmative defense or a set of facts other than those alleged by the plaintiff. The defendant’s attorney will present their case if no affirmative defense is successful.

The trial wraps with closing statements, which recap everything the jury has heard, once again give an overview of the case, and remind the jury of what the lawyers have proved.

The jury then deliberates until they reach a verdict.

What is the meaning of trial by jury?

In the United States, plaintiffs and defendants have the right to hear their cases by a panel of peers called a jury. The 12 jurors will hear the evidence presented by both parties and render a verdict based on it. This process ensures that personal injury cases are decided fairly and without bias.

Factors That Influence Whether a Case Settles or Goes to Trial

Your personal injury lawyer will provide insight on when to settle your case and when it is appropriate to go to trial. The facts of your case, the willingness of the liable party to fairly negotiate, and the overall value of your claim can influence whether you settle or pursue a trial.

Liability disputes also impact cases. After an accident, the responsible party may refuse to accept liability for the injuries and damages. In this case, settling is not an option because the defendant denies all demands. A trial is required to establish liability. Once liability is determined, the attorneys will try to settle.

Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney For Your Case

Taking your personal injury lawsuit to trial can be overwhelming. In most situations, you need a personal injury attorney to carry the legal burden and help you fight for your rights.

Regan Zambri Long’s attorneys have offices throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. With more than 100 years of cumulative experience, our lawyers are the best in the DC Metro area.

When your lawsuit goes to trial, our personal injury lawyers will be by your side until you receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Schedule a free consultation today by calling 202-960-4596.

Regan Zambri Long
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Personal Injury
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